June 7, 2012, by David Greenaway
Opening of The Institute for Mental Health
The incidence of mental ill health is growing. According to NHS data, the proportion of the English population meeting the criteria for one common mental disorder has increased from 15.5 per cent to almost 18 per cent over the last 20 years. This incidence is forecast to grow further as a consequence of demographic change, principally an ageing population.
Mental illness causes considerable personal and familial distress. Indeed, recent work at the Harvard School of Public Health estimates that mental health is the leading cause of all disability-adjusted life-years, followed by cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also has significant economic costs, estimated at over £105 billion per annum in the UK in 2009 (up from £77 billion in 2007).
Despite its growing incidence, the distress it causes and its consequences for individuals, families and communities, mental health remains something of an under-researched and under-resourced area. This is no doubt partly due to competing priorities, partly because it is a complex spectrum of illness, and partly because research is inherently multidisciplinary. The last of these makes it harder to build the teams necessary to address complicated conditions and have impact on patient care and outcomes.
Working in partnership with Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust, we created The Institute of Mental Health in 2006, under the leadership of Professor Nick Manning. Remarkably quickly it gained a national and international reputation for its fundamental and service facing research. In part this is due to the health of the University – NHS relationship and what we each bring to the partnership. In large measure it is down to the skill of Professor Manning and his research leaders in bringing together staff from such a wide array of disciplines: Medicine and Health Sciences, Business and Management, Education, Law, Sociology and Social Policy. The Institute now has the biggest concentration of interdisciplinary research power in the UK; creating critical mass at this scale not a straightforward task.
Almost 200 staff in Nottingham are now focused on, among other things: old age and dementia, ADHD and neuro-developmental disorders, mood disorders, recovery and integrated healthcare. About two thirds of those are University staff and one third NHS staff. The Institute also has a wide range of partners – regional, national and international – and multiple sources of funding, most notably from the National Institute for Health Research.
Mental health research is a profoundly important area and meeting the needs of an expanding patient population will be an increasing challenge for society in general and the NHS in particular. The IMH is already making a significant contribution to our understanding of a distressing range of complex illnesses, their diagnosis and treatment.
As Dame Sally Davies noted in her address, the IMH is a genuine partnership between higher education and the NHS, a partnership grounded in a shared agenda to make a difference in what is sometimes described as a ‘cinderella’ area.
The combination of high quality research undertaken at scale persuaded the University and Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust to invest in a new building. Bringing together our research teams and clinicians into a single purpose built facility will create even more opportunities for collaborative and transformative research. In time that can only benefit patient care and recovery.
Symbolically it is entirely appropriate that the new building is located on Jubilee Campus, itself a beacon of regeneration and renewal.
Professor David Greenaway